Moved to greener pastures

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Sheep-herders of Kashmir: an undated photo

Cattle grazers in villages who were a common feature of life in rural Kashmir have given up the occupation with changing lifestyles. Mir Farhat reports.

Abdur Raheem Wagay was 17 when he started grazing cattle of the villagers in Ratnipora village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Wagay belongs to the family whose prime occupation was grazing cattle of the villagers. Such families are found almost in every village in Kashmir, and were called Gopun Goure.

Wagay recollects that he used to take cattle of about 30 households of the village to the grazing lands which are about two kilometers from the village. This was the only source of livelihood for him. The villagers would pay him some amount of money, rice and vegetables at the end of the month or week, as wages.

Wagay, now 55, is a father of four. He quit the occupation 19 years ago and turned to collecting and selling milk. None of his children has turned to their ancestral occupation.

“The family’s needs increased. So it (grazing cattle) was not enough to fulfill them,” he said. “The village has ten such families who used to graze cattle in pastures. Every family had stopped this occupation and turned towards other means of livelihood”.

Almost every village had Gopun Goure, who would collect cattle from villagers in the morning. However, over the past one decade people in Kashmir, especially in rural areas, have stopped rearing cattle the way it was done earlier.

“Every household would possess at least four cattle; one or two cows for producing milk and the remaining two would be raised for money. Now, very few people rear cows and those who do, mostly don’t keep more than one cow and feed it with fodder bought from market or some do not keep it. The grazing lands too have disappeared,” Wagay said.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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